Store locatorINTL/£GBP
Select location & currency
  • United States / $USD
  • United Kingdom / £GBP
  • Europe / €EUR
  • International / £GBP


Four Weddings and a Formula

How did a low-budget British film with no stars score a winning recipe that created a whole new genre? On the 30th anniversary of the film, Thomas Pink explains (and offers tips on what to wear for your own big day.

To create the perfect wedding movie, follow these simple steps. First, identify your audience. (Nothing says “target demographic” quite likeBritain’s wedding industry, worth £14.7bn a year, £9.4bn of which is spent on the day itself.) Second, pick a title that does what it says on the tin, for example: My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997); The Wedding Singer(1998); The Wedding Planner (2001). Next, find a celebrity to hitch to your vehicle. Respectively, Julia Roberts, Adam Sandler and Matthew McConaughey. Finally, ensure it’s a romantic comedy, a fact you’ll communicate through goofily posed promo posters.

Release dates for the above are notable because all, arguably, were commissioned off the back of the film that set the gold standard, the one wedding band to rule them all. In 1994, Four Weddings and a Funeral took a cast of relative unknowns and, in a comedy of manners, explored themes of friendship, class and sexuality. (And weddings.) Written by Richard Curtis and directed by Mike Newell, Four Weddings’ cast-iron formula demonstrated the sheer bankability of a genre it almost single handedly created. With a modest budget of £3m, Four Weddings went on to gross £197m. And its production company, Working Title, would do more for the British film industry than even a certain boy wizard, a decade later.

An ensemble piece about a group of university friends searching for love, the film stars Hugh Grant as the professionally diffident Charles.(A role originally earmarked for Griff Rhys Jones.) The plot sees Charles attend the first wedding, of Angus and Laura, where he meets and falls head long for Carrie, a visiting American. They meet again, at wedding two, that of Bernard and Lydia (who also met at wedding one). Carrie is there with her now fiancé, the aristocratic Hamish. Charles is duly invited to Carrie’s wedding, which he hopes yet fails to derail, but attends nonetheless. It’s here the gregarious Gareth dies of a heart attack (but not before Fiona swears her own undying love for Charles), hence the funeral. Fast forward to Charles’s own wedding, to needy Henrietta, akaDuckface. Cue the return of Carrie, now divorced, and whose arrival prompts Charles to jilt Duckface and finally win Carrie’s heart. (By promising not to marry her.)

While it’s unlikely you’ll find yourself attending four weddings in short succession, Thomas Pink has the perfect shirt for every occasion. Take our Formal Poplin Bengal shirt. Woven with a fine Bengal stripe, the classily understated pale blue is positively Grant-esque. It’s also easy to care for and recovers beautifully after washing. Should those invitations keep coming, however, you might also consider our Formal Royal Twill shirt. The finer yarn count offers a more refined finish than Thomas Pink’s regular twill and provides a gentle lustre that will age wonderfully.

To today’s audiences, familiar with Grant’s trademark mugging, the film could easily feel dated. But its enduring popularity is down to the simple fact that it was, indeed, still is, very funny (and touching, and occasionally profound). Of numerous memorable scenes, eerily familiar if you’ve attended enough weddings, the best are predicated on the common denominator of English reserve gone awry: Rowan Atkinson’s Father Gerald ballsing up the vows; Charles trapped in a hotel-room cupboard as Bernard and Lydia have vociferous sex; Charles’s own nuptials heading for the inevitable car wreck while his brother, David, presses the accelerator (‘I suspect the groom is having doubts...’); and not forgetting Matthew’s heart-breaking eulogy for his beloved Gareth.

Famous scenes require famous lines; to paraphrase Matthew (John Hannah), choose your favourite line and remember the film that way. ‘The great advantage of having a reputation for being stupid: people are less suspicious of you,’ says the clueless aristo Tom, played by James Fleet. Or: ‘I always just hoped that I’d meet some nice friendly girl, like the look of her, hope the look of me didn’t make her physically sick, then pop the question.’ Perhaps the most memorable of the lot hails not from Curtis’ script but WH Auden, whose poem Funeral Blues enjoys a walk- on part in Gareth’s exit – and saw a pronounced uptick in Auden sales as a consequence. (‘He was my... noon, my midnight, my talk, my song/ I thought that love would last forever/ I was wrong.’)

For Curtis, sadness is simply a way to elicit pathos and the animating spirit of the film is upbeat. Much like our second recommendation, a Tailored Fit Formal Plain Poplin shirt. The fabric is woven for a crisp finish but is soft against the skin. It also breathes extremely well, so will keep you cool when things hot up on the dance floor (or possibly in a cupboard).

If the receiving line of Four Weddings’ characters suggests a world peopled exclusively by toffs, the film at least attempted to bang the dinner gong for social mobility. While the Americans, rightly, view the English with circumspection, Gareth’s working-class funeral reveals not so much that he is a pretender, rather that, among this friendship group, it’s come one, come all. In fact, the film’s portrayal of relationships is one of its great strengths. Those couplings laced with resignation, as the options gradually narrow; and also a gay relationship which, for mainstream ’90s cinema, was ahead of its time. Today, it would inevitably be buried beneath a Twitter pile-on, out but not proud enough; back then, the subtle pairing of Matthew and Gareth not only co-existed comfortably alongside those of their straight friends but turned out to be the most stable relationship of all.

‘Gareth used to prefer funerals to weddings,’ runs another line in Matthew’s eulogy. ‘He said it was easier to get enthusiastic about a ceremony one had an outside chance of eventually being involved in.’ It’s worth remembering the Civil Partnership Act, granting equal legal rights to same-sex couples, was passed only in 2004, 10 years after the film’s release; it took almost another decade, in 2013, for same-sex marriage to be legalised.

At Thomas Pink, we believe you should be able to say ‘I do’ – or don’t – to whoever you like. And you could do a lot worse, as James Fleet’s Tom might say, than our Tailored Fit Formal Jaquard Stripe shirt. The soft fabric is woven in Italy by renowned textile mill Albini and features a Jacquard stripe pattern, intricately woven into the fabric. These sophisticated stripes add depth and visual interest to the shirt's overall aesthetic.

Four Weddings launched careers, or else bolstered nascent ones, Simon Callow, Kristin Scott Thomas, David Haig and Sophie Thompson among them. Grant would be recast time and again as versions of himself/Charles, carpet-bombing roles with his ubiquitous deployment of ‘uhms’ and ‘aahs’. An embarrassing run-in with the Los Angeles Police Department notwithstanding, his stellar career saw him finally escape Charles and mature into a talented character actor. Four Weddings is occasionally described as a “Blairite” film (social mobility, the transformative possibilities of higher education...). Teflon Tony was still three years away, yet the relatively slow burn of its success often sees Four Weddings co-opted into the rise of New Labour, taken under its cultural wing, Cool Britannia.

Working Title, under the stewardship of Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, went on to become an industry behemoth and continues to play a, perhaps the, central role in Britain’s cinema landscape; it was the first British company to gross more than $1bn at the box office, a revenue curve that continues to rise, to date, well north of a whopping $7.5bn.

The company’s subsequent successes included Notting Hill, the Four Weddings sequel-but-not, a meta masterpiece that was effectively a shop window for the grand houses and communal gardens of Curtis’ home patch; and which played a not insignificant role in turbo-charging the area’s gentrification. In the intervening decades, Four Weddings settled down comfortably into British cinema history, the passing years lending poignancy as a once youthful cast faced intimations of their own mortality. (Charlotte Coleman, who played Scarlett, died at the age of just 33.)